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Google fixes problem with Apps Start page

Juan Carlos Perez | Oct. 20, 2008
Google Apps administrators are complaining that their Start page portals are malfunctioning.

Susan Novotny, Apps Standard edition administrator at a national nonprofit with 30 users in Ontario, Canada, said via e-mail that the occasional bugs that hit Google Apps "do shake my confidence a little."

"I guess I expect a spectacularly wealthy company to be as reliable as the average e-mail provider," she added. "But they're providing tools no other provider can."

Nelson & Co. Engineering in Birmingham, Alabama, also experienced the Start page bug, but it wasn't too disruptive for its four Apps Premier users, said Apps administrator Ryan Nelson in an e-mail interview. The company feels that, despite the hiccups, Apps provides it with a great value at $50 per user per year.

"As a Premier user I would think that these issues would not happen. In the long run, Google Apps has been the best technology move we've ever made. Little issues crop up a couple times a year for less than 24 hours: not ideal, but better than anything else we've ever used," Nelson said.

Others were more frazzled, like an Apps administrator identified as Jay in the official discussion forum, who wrote Friday morning: "I now have over 1,200 users that have no idea how to get into their e-mail. The phones are ringing off the hook. What is going on with customer service these days. This really stinks."

The problem wasn't related to a major iGoogle upgrade the company rolled out on Thursday, Chandra said.

The unrelated Gmail problem this week kept users from accessing their e-mail in some cases for more than 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday. Google declared that problem solved late on Thursday.

During Google's third-quarter earnings conference call on Thursday, cofounder and Technology President Sergey Brin said that there are now more than 1 million businesses using Google Apps.

Google Apps is one of the best-known examples of a new wave of Web-hosted communication and collaboration suites that are emerging as options to Microsoft's Office and Outlook/Exchange suite.

Apps is hosted by Google in its data centers and accessed by end-users via a Web browser. The appeal of Web-hosted software like Apps is that it doesn't have to be installed by customers on their own hardware, reducing maintenance costs and complexity. Apps and others like it are also designed from the ground up for workgroup collaboration.

However, when something breaks on the vendors' data centers, IT administrators have little or no control over how or when to remedy the problem, and are left to appease their angry end-users as best they can.

In August, Gmail had three significant outages that affected not only individual consumers of the free Webmail service but also paying Apps Premier customers. As a result, Google decided to extend a credit to all Apps Premier customers and said it would do better at notifying users of problems.


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